Super fun solo at a super fun event! Thank you JamBallah NW!
Super fun song that I used this weekend at JamBallah! Had to slow it down a little and take out the intro and another section to make it more suitable for ATS® improvisation.
Artist is Artem Uzunov
In American Tribal Style® Belly Dance, we use a concept called "flock of birds". This is a technique that keeps the group of dancers moving as one, cohesive unit. We each learn how to be leaders and followers. We learn how to give up the ego for the sake of the group and how to work together, as a tribe, to express ourselves and the music through dance. We begin to learn this concept in the first few weeks of dance class and without realizing it, we soon become better leaders and followers in our personal lives too. Learning how to be great at both is an essential part of dance and helps us grow in our non-dance life as well.
The article below was posted to my personal FB page several years ago and popped up in my memories app today. Thank you Rhiannon Grahame for this lovely find!!
January 21, 2010
Moving as One
Leadership and Responsiveness
If you have ever seen a flock of geese fly overhead, you know how difficult it is to tell who is leading whom. The geese move in swift syncopation as if they are all responding instantaneously to the same cues, tapped into an unseen force that directs and guides their movement as one. It is the same way with wild horses or a herd of buffalo. Yet in all these cases, there is a leader who has established his position through demonstrations of strength, ability, and dominance. The total cohesiveness of these groups is a symbol both of excellent leadership and an excellent ability to follow. It takes both of these qualities for any group or system to work well.
In human communities, it is not always easy to establish who should be leading and who following. There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the fact that our ways of determining leadership are less instinctual and therefore less clear. It is very rare that everyone is in complete agreement as to who should lead. In the big picture, of course, competition is a positive factor, preventing stagnation and entrenchment. However, in smaller groups, when a leader is truly called to the position and her constituency is responsive to her leadership, an enormous amount of work can be accomplished. This tends to work only if the individuals in the group share a powerful, heartfelt common goal. This goal is the unseen force that directs and guides the group so that they can move as one.
A flock of geese winging in unison across the sky can serve to remind us of what we can accomplish when we surrender to the greater good. When any group of people moves as one, there is a leader at the helm who has sacrificed his or her individual ego to the larger vision of the group and followers who have done the same. When the ego is subdued, it is easier to sense the right way to go and correctly choose the leader who can best take us there. Like a flock of geese, we move swiftly and harmoniously toward our shared vision.
As dancers, we focus so much of our practice on the movements, the posture, the choreography and perhaps stage presence but, a very basic and important key element that gets missed so often is the breath.
Breath is our prana, our life force. It happens naturally so we often take it for granted. Rarely, if ever, do we notice how we are breathing, what muscles are used, the balance between our inhales and exhales or even the temperature of the air.
Most people don’t breath “normal” meaning they don’t fully inhale or exhale. As a society we breathe shallow, never fully utilizing our lung capacity, never fully exhaling to allow a full breath of fresh, new oxygen. In fact, the only time most of us fully inhale or exhale is when we over-exert ourselves and feel like we aren’t getting enough air and try to make up for it.
In yoga, the breath is everything. Hatha yoga (the physical practice) is a breathing class with postures. Before I began my yoga practice, many years ago, I never paid attention to my breath with dance. Sure, I knew to disconnect my breath with my Arabic movements so I didn’t pass out but, out of all the teachers, workshops and classes I had taken, no one ever talked about the breath. If they did, I didn’t realize the importance enough to pay attention.
Often in performance I would realize half way into the first song that I wasn’t breathing. All the excitement and adrenaline of the show and I had forgotten something pretty important. About ten minutes into the show (or less depending on the set), my mouth would be dry, my teeth stuck to my lips and I’d be out of breath just in time to get into chorus (for non ATS® dancers, this is kinda like the background dancers in a set). By the end of the set, I’d be backstage catching my breath and downing water before I could go out and mingle with the crowd. When you dance a restaurant gig or private event you often don’t have that “down time” you need to catch your breath. People want to thank you, talk, ask about dance classes, talk about tattoos and get photos. You can’t really say, “Hey lady, give me a few minutes to catch my breath before I smile and talk to you while you hand me a tip!” Surely I’m not the only dancer this happens to.
A few years ago during my addiction to Bikram yoga, I would often go to a 90 minute class and then go to dance class for two to three hours. I couldn’t figure out why I could do such intense yoga in 105 degrees for 90 minutes and feel great afterwards but, be winded after 30 minutes of dance class. Then it dawned on me what the difference between my yoga and my dance class was and I did something that changed my life……. I closed my mouth.
It’s true, you can laugh. Urban Dictionary says “mouth breather” is someone who lacks enough intelligence that they never learned to breath through their nose. Another book I read said mouth breathing was barbaric. I didn’t even realize it was “a thing” but apparently it can even affect your digestion, facial formation as a child and can even cause major health problems due to poor oxygen concentration in your bloodstream. So maybe there are only a few mouth breathers out there and that’s why no one has ever mentioned breathing in dance classes but I felt it important enough to share with other potentially barbaric, ignorant mouth breathers like myself, rather my former self.
So lets focus on how we should breathe, nasal breathing. When I closed my mouth and began breathing through my nose while dancing I found I had more stamina, I sweat less, my smiles and facial expressions were more controllable and natural looking and my posture and stage presence improved.
Nasal breathing inhibits the “fight or flight” response. It keeps your body calm and it warms and filters the air before it reaches your lungs. Our energy onstage and while teaching transfers to the audience, there is an energy exchange that happens. When you feel calm and present with a genuine smile on your face, the audience can see this, they can feel this. After all, part of our posture is a lifted ribcage, which not only portrays strength and confidence but it allows for better breathing by opening the ribcage and expanding the lungs. Wow, our dance style is designed for proper breathing. Kinda genius really, thanks Momma C. But so many of us don’t know how to really use this posture to it’s fullest potential.
So how does this work? What if you are already a nasal breather? How can you maximize your breath to give more life to your dance? It’s not as easy as just closing your mouth. Learning to breath is a little like learning to shimmy. It should come naturally because our bodies are designed for it but some people have to work hard to get it into muscle memory.
Try this. Close your mouth. Begin breathing through your nose. Inhale fully for a slow count of three, exhale fully for a slow count of three. Equal inhales and exhales, slow and full. Let your belly expand. This should be easy when dancing since our abdominals aren’t contracted. If you can extend the count then try it. The goal is slow, continuous, equal, nasal breathing. If you find this hard or start coughing, don’t worry, it’s normal, especially for people that may suffer from chronic anxiety or stress which is the main reason we would normally breath shallow. There are several exercises you can do to increase lung capacity including inhaling to your full capacity, holding for a count of five and then slowly exhaling and holding this emptiness for a count of five. Then repeating. Do this a few times each day and you’ll soon be able to retain your breath for a longer time. Remember, the exhales are just as important as the inhales, if not more so. Without a proper, full exhale you won’t have the space in your lungs for a full inhale. Think of it like a cup of water, if you only pour half out, you can only put half in.
When you are ready, try nasal breathing with your body waves. The ribcage expansion of our upper body movements naturally opens our lungs and can sometime cause us to breath a little different than in other movements. If you can continue to drill the body wave and eventually the Arabic using consistent nasal breathing, then the other movements should be pretty easy.
I strongly recommend making breathing part of your dance practice. Don’t take it for granted. Even if it comes natural to you, or you think you breath fine and don’t have any issues, just try being more conscious of it, give these techniques a whirl. If you don’t notice a difference then no harm done. But if you DO notice a difference, then you have just added a little more prana, a little more life, to your dance!
Build Confidence – Scientific studies have proven posture affects confidence and attitude. Belly dance is performed with an uplifted and open ribcage, head held high, shoulders relaxed. In many movements, the arms are open wide. This posture is not only designed to help isolate movements throughout the body but it is an excellent confidence builder! Keeping this positive, confident posture for an entire class, while smiling and dancing is an amazing self-confidence booster.
Learn to Love Your Body – When you walk into your first belly dance class you'll notice the variety of shapes and sizes of the women in the room. You'll soon realize that every body shape and size moves differently and that’s what makes each person beautiful. We do not require anyone to show their belly in class. It’s a personal choice. But, somewhere around the fifth class something magical happens. Women begin to lift up their tank tops and adorn their hips with scarfs. They learn to love and appreciate their body instead of feeling embarrassed. The self-confidence that is built in just a few weeks and the feeling of letting go and dancing in a safe, encouraging environment is something of beauty, just like you.
Strengthen and Tone – Every major muscle group is used throughout a belly dance class. Arm undulations, otherwise known as snake arms, tone every part of your upper back, should and arms. Shimmies and hip bumps tone thighs, calves, glutes and obliques. Any kind of dance will offer a great cardio workout and belly dance enhances your workout by using body weight exercises as well as and slow, controlled, muscle movements.
Improve Coordination – Belly dancing teaches muscle control and isolation. These isolations are layered in different combinations throughout our body. For instance, our arms may move in a lateral snake like motion while our hips move in a circular motion. Learning how to isolate different parts of your body, while dancing, smiling, breathing and playing finger cymbals definitely helps develop body awareness and coordination.
Increased Flexibility – Upper body undulations, head slides and hip circles are just a few examples of belly dance movements that help increase flexibility. People hold a lot of stress in their shoulders and hips. Imagine a class where you move your hips and shoulders in every direction including literally shaking it out with shimmies.
Suitable For All Ages – Belly dance is a tradition that was passed on through each generation. Even today you'll find mother and daughter teams performing and teaching all around the world. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just for skinny, young ladies. Most belly dance classes have a wide range of ages, body types and ethnicities. I've taught students as young as twelve and as mature as seventy.
Meet New People - I started bellydance so I could meet new people, specifically women who were my own friends, not just the wives of my husband's friends. You can't really meet people at a gym. Each person it working in their own space, on their own goals. Bellydance is fun and interactive! You meet new people who you know you already share at least one thing in common!
Great Exercise During Pregnancy – Many sources say belly dance was actually created as a way to prepare a woman's body for childbirth. The abdominal wall muscles built during different belly dance movements are the same muscles used during childbirth. The circular movements we make with our hips help move and keep the baby into an optimal position in the uterus and pelvis. The no-impact dance movements improve circulation in your legs and allow you to stay physically active during the entire length of your pregnancy. Of course, this is all subject to a letter by your doctor. Many students dance until just a few days before birth and use abdominal exercises while in labor. I have personally heard the nurses and doctor comment on the benefits of belly dance at the birth of my godchild. His mother has been belly dancing for several years and she was even doing belly rolls while in labor!
Celebrate Femininity - One of my favorite quotes is by a famous dancer named Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, “There is a time in history, a long time ago, when the bounce and sway of a woman's hips were considered so beautiful that they set it to music and made a dance out of it”
Being a woman is something to celebrate! These days, women rarely have the opportunity to feel feminine. We’re so busy being mothers, employees, wives, homemakers, etc that we rarely get the opportunity to be WOMEN or to feel feminine and beautiful.
Costumes – Pants and tank tops are the normal class attire but, before long, many students start wearing hip scarfs, coin bras, fluffy skirts or pantaloons (harem pants). While costuming definitely isn’t a requirement, it certainly adds to the fun and it definitely gives a new meaning to the term gym clothes!
Part two in the Pre-Shopping blog starts off with a plug for Liz’s poster session which is all about marketing and branding. Do not underestimate the importance of an updated website! With photos! I had to really dig down into the inter-webs with full stalking powers activated in order to find out more about some of these vendors.
Many of the vendors in this blog sell similar items. Skirts and cholis being the main similarity. But I hope to point out some of the differences each one can offer. Of course, don’t take my word for it. Shop around, meet everyone and see what they have that you can’t get anywhere else. You may even want to pick up a card so you can get your students in touch with them.
One thing I did want to mention, another courtesy you can show the vendors is to not take photos of their creations. It’s one thing to take a photo of something after you bought it. It’s another thing to take a photo of something in hopes that you can recreate it later! If you need to take a picture, you know, to send to your spouse so they don’t freak out when they try to go to the ATM (again, just what I heard) then just ask them. But be sure to respect their answer and trust they have a really great reason. If you post photos on Instagram or Facebook then tag them to give them some credit and a little promotion. One word…. Karma!
So with that, let’s get to shopping!
Klinker Closet - I’m a sucker for ay kind of Tibetan store. You know, the kind filled with incense, pendants, meditation shawls and prayer beads. This vendor feels a little like those shops. Last year I bought a fantastic ring carved from a single stone. LOVE! The best thing is that it FEELS good. Like it came from a nice place and has a good vibe. The hardest part about shopping at this booth was deciding which pendants I wanted. Every time I went by there I saw something I had not seen before! I think she put more things out as items were purchased so I’d recommend stopping by more than once. She even has home décor items like really cool Indian door pulls. Might be a fun addition to your dance room or studio!
Anaya Tribal – I’m not familiar with this vendor but from what I can dig up, they have some traditional ATS® costuming along with a little Gypsy Caravan style pieces too.
UPDATE - Just got word that this vendor has some fabulous assuit bras (the ones they sell at the FCBD® studio) and ghawazee coats!! YAY! A trusted source, Becka Bomb from Kamalah Tribal, says these "Are some awesome chicks". Another Facebook friend, Zina, says their Turkish bodices are great quality. I'm excited to see what all they carry. I've seen the bras up close and personal and can attest they are well made. The assuit patterns on the ones I saw lined up perfectly on each cup! High quality for sure.
Irie Tribal – Here’s a vendor I know and love!! My girl Cyndi at Irie Tribal is not only one of the nicest people you will meet, she is extremely enthusiastic to her business! This woman HAND DYES skirts!! I can’t wait to pick one out! I’ve only seen photos and the colors are so vibrant. Cyndi’s personality comes though in her fabric choices too. While she can definitely fulfill your traditional ATS® costuming needs, she also adds her fun, vibrant personality to her inventory with items like Hello Kitty brocade cholis (already claimed the small!) and wonder woman pantaloons! These are great for class when you want to add a little character to your practice wear. Of course, I’ve seen people perform in these fun fabrics too so it’s all about personal preference. She also changed up the choli pattern a little to cater to the busty women. If she doesn’t have what you want, she can certainly make it and has been known to whip up new merchandise in her hotel room at various events. This woman is the Sam and Dean of ATS®! She shows up at every event, kicks ass and then heads out for tacos! I also just found out she was accepted into the next Advanced Teacher Training group so stop by and give her a big congrats hug!
Tribal Art Wear – Along with skirts and belts it looks like this vendor may have something I’ve been wanting for a long time, a sari fringe hip scarf! I’ve borrowed Wendi’s more times than she’s worn it. Hopefully this isn’t just a tease from an outdated website. I’m ready to finally buy my own now that I’m 3,000 miles away from the one I always borrowed.
World Emporium Kiosk – Another fabulous person that I know and love!! Maria is a very dedicated dancer who always makes sure her students have the best instruction and access to the best costuming. She carries everything from pantaloons, skirts, cholis, Tuareg jewelry and hair accessories. I bought some amazing giant star Kuchi medallions from her last year as a gift for Liz. In fact, I think it's time to share this video of Lulu dancing with Liz’s belt on! Showcasing her “lucky stars”!
In all seriousness, I always find lots of fabulous things from World Emporium Kiosk. Stop buy and see Maria! Give her a hug too and an extra one from me!
The Dancer’s Eye – Does this happen to anyone else…. Setup a photo shoot, spend hours getting ready, play super model for a couple of hours only to end up with a handful of photos you really like? I LOVE the idea of having a photographer setup with mini sessions each night. You are already in costume, you are already in performance mode and you are genuinely happy and surrounded by people you love! THIS is a great opportunity to get your genuine self on camera! I’m not great at “faking it” so I usually have a friend at photo shoots with me but the best photos are from shoots where I already have my “game face on” and my smile is genuine and not forced. I don’t think there are many spots left so be sure to get your space! I’m excited to get a group photo with my ATT sisters! How cool would it be if you got some photos with someone you rarely see? Maybe you can use it to cross promote for a flyer or a future performance together? Endless possibilities with so many of us in one place!
Kuhl Jewel Bindis – Gotta love a good etsy page! It’s stalk worthy for sure. This vendor sells crystal bindis. From what I can tell, there are a few differences in this vendor and Sandi’s Ocean. It looks like Kuhl Jewel uses metal adornments in some of their bindis. This is great if you are going for that earthy look and not so much shiny bling. Also, the less crystals, the lower the price. You can never go wrong with bindis and they are a great gift for dancers in your life, so you might as well stock up while you are at Homecoming!
Stellar Advantage – I’d love to share so many things about this vendor but the only thing I can figure out is that her birthday was a few days ago and she lives in Florida. Thanks Facebook. Google only pulled up images of Kayaks.
Shiviti Bazaar – A fellow Oregonian! I met Zahara at Jamballa over the summer. I am shy and I had only lived in Portland for like a week so I was the awkward girl in the corner on my own and not really comfortable squeezing my way between people to look at merchandise. I found a scarf at her booth that I didn’t buy and I still think about to this day. I kick myself for not buying things more often than I regret buying something. Zahara recently went to Morroco (I think it was Morocco) so I’m super excited to see what all she brought back. If I remember correctly, she sells some costuming staples but also a lot of jewelry and some amazing dupattas!
Saroyan Cymbals – Talk about the ability to pre-shop! Finger cymbals aren’t something I’d order online but Saroyan makes it so easy. With a sound file next to every finger cymbal on their site, you can search and play for hours! I love my FCBD® zils so much that I got a different pair of zils for class and traveling. I didn’t want to risk losing my FCBD® ones. I think I’m ready for some new, BIG finger cymbals! I’ve never been to an event that had a finger cymbal vendor!! I’m so excited about this one that I’m dancing in my chair!
ATS® Cooperative – This vendor includes merchandise from Third Eye Tribal, Dayanisma, Crone’s Jewels, Dance Craft and Twisted Gyspy. I think this this concept is fantastic as I know sometimes you want to vend but don’t necessarily have a ton of merchandise or time to fill a whole space on your own. This is a great stop for the ATS® props DVD, Dayanisma CD and Twisted Gypsy’s handmade jewelry and belly chains. Maybe Jen, Director or Twisted Gypsy, will have The Drummers of Twisted Gypsy’s cd for sale! You have to stop here and add all of these to your ATS® library. Best place to find new music is from the musicians that work directly with ATS® dance companies! I’m not sure what Dance Craft will be selling but I was able to find Crone’s Jewels on etsy. YES!! Metal, hand stamped pendants with different sayings and images that speak to your soul! Some reference bellydance and others just life in general. I’ve been thinking about making metal stamped pendant that says “FREE HUGS” for a long time but don’t want to invest in all the stuff it would take so I’m looking forward to ordering a customized pendant from her.
WOW! Lots of vendors! How will you possibly have time to shop at all of them AND attend all of the other workshops, shows and lectures? Well, let’s discuss.
Vendors are open as follows:
Friday & Saturday 9am – 5:30, 7pm-10:30pm
Sunday 8:30am – 4:30pm
Here’s my recommendation for getting the most out of your shopping time. (edited due to a change in vendor availability on Thursday evening)
It’s important to remember DO NOT be late to class. It’s disruptive and you’ll miss the intro and explanation of the class, even the gratitude portion (moving meditation) so if you want to shop between classes you can try my method. If I have two classes that are either physically close together or if I have to pass by the vending area, I will allow myself about 7 minutes to stop at ONE vendor and always pick one that you aren’t going to have to try stuff on. Save clothing shopping for lunch or if you don't have a class scheduled. If you know a vendor only carries one of a kind items then it's best to go see them first. If you need costuming to wear to one of the shows then you should shop for those items early Friday.
So, here’s my secret (not so secret) shopping plan that could generally all go out the window depending on how quickly I spent my loot and what kinds of shiny things distract me from my plan of attack.
Friday between classes –
Salome’s Suitcase (with a focus on Sandi’s Ocean & Medina)
Super Natural Flowers
Friday Lunch –
World Emporium Kiosk
Saturday between classes –
Saturday Lunch -
FatChanceBellydance® - Bessie
I’ll hit the vendors that I don’t know and buy my last minute stuff! Trust me, there will be costuming that you seen in the shows and then realize you NEED those pieces! That’s what Sunday shopping is for!
If you are still reading after this loooong blog post then you are as serious about your costume shopping as I am! Congrats, you are going to have so much fun! As a bonus, you’ll have a full year to pay off your credit cards until the next Homecoming AND two words…. Tax deductible!
Enjoy! See you in two weeks!!
Now that the holidays are over and you’ve spent so much time shopping for others, it’s time to start thinking about the most important person…… YOU! For those of you going to ATS® Homecoming, that should be pretty easy because you are about to spend several days surrounded by beautiful merchandise from some of your favorite vendors!
Last year the shopping at ATS® Homecoming was fantastic. This year looks to be even better with more vendors and more variety! Please note, I am not advertising. I’m just a girl that gets excited about shiny things and fluffy skirts! Not only do I like lists, I also like to pre-shop. Meaning I like to see who has what kind of merchandise so I know which vendors I really need to visit and prepare my wallet a little for the hurt it's likely to receive. So if you like lists and want a little 411 on the vendor lineup this year then this post is for you!
But first, let's talk about something very important. This might cause a bit of a stir, but.....Before you make any purchase please first ask yourself, "Is this a knock-off or is this the original designer/artist?" I can't imagine what it's like to be an artist that puts your soul into creating something unique and beautiful and then see someone come in with a cheaper reproduction and steal your business. WHAT? Ugh. That's like a dancer creating a choreography from scratch and presenting it after tons of hard work and dedication only to watch someone later take your choreography and half-ass copy it and present it as their own. It's up to us, as consumers, to drive the market towards supporting original artists. I know it's not always possible. I've tried to support artists before that took six months or more to get my order filled after I went out of my way to specifically order from them instead of buying a replica for half the price five months earlier. It's also disappointing for the original artist to be sold out when you are completely prepared to buy it. But if you know it's a knock-off ask yourself if you can consciously wear it and support that vendor or are you just feeding the market of cheaper versions of someone else's design. Inspiration, in my opinion, is different. If you were inspired to create a new product (i.e. cholis with built in bras) then that is a different concept and you are catering to a different customer. It's just a decision each person needs to make on their own.
OK, enough of my rant.
There are so many vendors that I'll need to split up this blog post so I'm only covering the first few here.
I'll follow the same order as the newsletter listing:
Magical Fashions – Krishna and her husband live in the south so I’ve seen them at pretty much every event I’ve been to for the last ten years. She’s the “Father Dunn” of all things fabric! Skirts, cholis, pantaloons and even bags. She’s the only vendor I know of that sells those beautiful block print skirts. Side bar on the block print: I’ll admit, the first time I saw these I was not a fan. I’m such a traditionalist and wondered how she was going to sell any of them. Then I saw one layered with a tissue skirt and fell in love! Every skirt is different so you just have to dig through them and find the one that speaks to you. But here is the key…. don't take a lot of time to "think about it" because you will feel really sad when you see someone else wearing it the next day! It’s bad enough if someone buys it and you never see it again but it’s much worse when someone buys it and then happens to be wearing it in one of your classes and you get distracted because you can’t stop staring at their butt. Not from personal experience or anything….. it’s just what I've heard.
Back on track, if you are looking for any kind of skirt THIS is a great place. She also carries a lot of costuming bits so you can embellish or create your own costuming pieces. Krishna travels to India several times a year (in fact I think she is there now) so she works directly with manufacturers and since she's really tapped into the tribal community, she can tell what we will love. She has the buying and production power that exceeds most small businesses so it's easy to get swept away with her lower prices. I always look at her more original items like block print cotton skirts and pantaloons, costuming bits, bags and class or street wear like wrap skirts.
FatChanceBellyDance® - One word….. Nakarali!!! Yep! They bring it from the studio and display it in glass cases to protect them from all the drool. I remember when Megha and I were at Colleena’s home in Pushkar just hanging out talking music with Helm (I know, tough life right?) She showed us some of the casts used to make the jewelry. They were handmade and each piece had so much symbolism and detail. I’m not sure how they are made now that they carry so many pieces but they are so intricate I can't imagine them not being handmade. The pieces are expensive. BUT, it’s art! Beautiful, silver art with an impeccable level of detail that actually has symbolism and stories behind it. They are heavy and well made. Many pieces are limited and the sizes vary which are also limited so again, if you love it and it fits just buy it! A few tips on Nakarali: They are real silver so they do tarnish and because of the detail some of them can be pretty hard to clean so be sure you put it in a safe place when you aren’t wearing it. I hung one of my necklaces on the wall and it got a little more tarnished over the years than I wanted it to. If you buy bracelets or anklets it would be a good idea to have a jeweler add a safety chain. They are replicas (and some vintage) and weren’t designed for digging in your dance bag, wearing with your boots, etc. This was a great tip from Kelley Beaston!
FCBD® will of course have other goodies for sale like tanks, OG merchandise, wooden zils and another favorite….Bessie designs! Hopefully you guys can get your hands on a choli dress! I love mine and can’t wait to wear it with my Bessie skirt! I have three pieces and all of them are so well made. It’s an investment but when you think about what it took to design, create the pattern, sew, etc you realize it’s definitely worth the price.
Supernatural Flowers – I can’t remember if I’ve shopped with this vendor before so I stalked her Etsy account. YAY!! FLOWERS! I always hesitate buying flowers because I think I’ll just get some at the craft store and make them myself. Then I start building my headdress and get mad at myself for not making new flowers. Sure, we could probably make some nice flower adornments ourselves but WILL WE? I know myself better these days so I’ll definitely be stopping here to stock up!
Sandi’s Ocean – For those that are new to the ATS® scene, Sandi is a long time FCBD® member who makes the most beautiful bindis I’ve ever seen. It’s been over seven years since I bought my first “Sandi bindi” and I still have it! I’ve seen a lot of people try to imitate, but Sandi has the eye for designing and as far as I know, she started the crystal bindi making trend so I like to support her whenever possible! I'll admit, I tried my hand at bindi making and they are ok, but if you want something that is going to make a great statement in a performance or photoshoot then THIS is the place to go! The selection is always limited and the big ones go first so get there the first day! If you plan on buying a Sandi bindi to wear at a Homecoming performance or photoshoot be sure to bring your spirit gum. These bindis are not self-adhesive because they are made to be reused for several years. Eyelash adhesive is ok but won't hold up the larger bindis as well.
Salome’s Suitcase – I can never really remember what they have because it seems like it’s always different. Plus, their website and links don't have any merchandise listed so I can’t pre-shop. Bummer! What I do know is they are a collaboration of several vendors including Kathleen Crowley, Black Lotus Clothing, HiBeam Bindis (this is the same as Sandi's Ocean), Minerva's Antennae, Rose Harden and one of my new favorite vendors, Medina! Another investment that is worth it. I bought a Medina belt last year before Homecoming and have worn it every performance since. I recently placed my order for a Medina coin bra so I’m definitely a fan! Such high quality and attention to detail! Seriously, I paid more for my belt than my car payment but I made a commitment when I started downsizing that I’d only invest in quality. I can wear this belt forever and it holds it’s value so IF I ever get tired of it I can sell it and put that money towards a new one! If you have been saving and want a great costume piece, check out this booth. Medina specializes in custom orders and is really easy to communicate with so go chat with her. Kathleen Crowley is Carolena's partner behind the Bessie line. She created the infamous fluffie ruffle pantaloons and she always has new things that are inspired by the Edwardian period. I'm pretty sure each piece at this booth is handmade by the actual business owner so definitely stop buy and meet them and admire their work.
FoolProof - I don't know a whole lot about this vendor. I feel like I should but in all fairness, I'm still new to the west coast and I think this vendor caters to more of the fusion crowd. But please someone chime in! Their website is under construction.
Asher by Elizabeth - I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely lady a few times and scored a sweet skirt from her a couple of years ago. She makes skirts and dresses that you can tie in different ways to make different looks (she’ll even show you how to do it). Pretty nifty! Plus, the fabrics are always so soft and lay perfect on your body. Great for practice and everyday looks but I’ve also seen a few of her pieces in fusion costuming. If I'm not mistaken, Megha bought a dress one year at TribalCon that also turned into a wrap jacket or top. Pretty great idea! Especially for those of us that take weekend trips and want to pack light. I'm excited to try out her tops. I'd love something I can wear to class and then just tie a little different to make it into a choli after I get warmed up!
Diva Dreads – Once upon a time I wanted dreads. I realized how much work they took and how hard they would be to wash every time I took a hot yoga class so I was over my fascination pretty quick. I’ve seen Diva Dreads every year at Tribal Con and by the end of the weekend you see a lot of new hairstyles floating around. So last year I decided to try it out after Liz insisted they were awesome. She didn’t lie! The lady matched my hair exactly and showed me how to wear them. They are pretty versatile too. For those of you that like volume in your headdresses but don't want to use fabric to achieve the look, this is definitely an option. She also sells hair flowers and accessories so if you buy them the day of your show you could technically have your headdress pretty much complete before it's even time to get ready! I think she also has a service where you can send them to her and she'll wash and maintain them for you when they start showing their age or after you've been wearing them a lot. She has different styles, lengths and some even have little charms in them. Even if you don't want to wear them for performance, they are super fun just to wear out to a show or party!
These few vendors alone could totally satisfy your shopping needs and costume cravings but there are TEN more vendors I haven't even gotten to and some of them I know personally and shop with often so I can't wait to share them with you!
I love planning and making lists! I’ve already started my packing list for ATS® Homecoming. I put everything on my list no matter how obvious it seems. It’s way too easy to forget things the simple things when you are focused on making sure your costume is finished and excited about taking classes and seeing all your long distance friends again. So, as we approach the countdown to ATS® Homecoming, I wanted to share a list of things that seem quite obvious but nevertheless, are often forgotten when attending a multi-day dance event.
Cholis – I know I know….I told you some of these were obvious. But, you WILL sweat in your classes and you’ll be in your choli all day. I suggest you pack at least three so you’ll still have friends left on Sunday.
Tanks – We all love to sport our dance company tanks. Now is the time to pull out your collection! Here’s a hint, lots of us will have the same tank so be sure to write your initials on the tag as soon as you purchase your Homecoming tank. Often in class you will end up taking it off and setting it down. By the end of class you may be on the opposite side of the room and forgot where you put it.
Sweater or Hoodie –Nothing like working up a great sweat in class only to walk out of the room and shock your body with a blast of what feels like artic cold air. The temps in the rooms are always hard to control and in some hotels they are controlled in a totally different state! If you are cold natured, a scarf and leg warmers might not be a bad idea. You don’t want to be distracted from learning because you are trying to convert your skirt into a hoodie. Got an OG hoodie? Yep, so does everyone else! Again, be sure your initials are on the tag.
Yoga Pants and Mat – I recommend you start every day in the yoga class (roll your eyes all you want). These classes are designed for dancers and they will ensure you get the most out of your day. Tight leg pants are best. You don’t have to sport the latest Lululemon or Athleta fashion. Just wear something comfortable. Big flare pants tend to get in the way and you don’t want to spend the full 45 minutes getting untangled from your skirt. A choli and tank are perfect for the top.
Since we’ll be on carpet, a yoga mat is highly recommended. But don’t let a lack of yoga mat stop you from attending class. My favorite yoga mat ever was one I bought on clearance at TJ Maxx. Just a cheap mat will be fine. Plus, these work great rolled up to make a seat in the lecture part of classes!
Zils - I know this seems obvious too, but zils, finger cymbals, can be easily forgotten and most people don’t carry extra when traveling. If you are new to ATS® and still not comfortable with zils then this is the perfect setting! With classes of 50 or more students, no one is going to hear you if you mess up and with so much practice within three days, you’re very likely to walk away from the weekend playing like a pro!
Footwear - I love to dance barefoot, but we all know that a dance surface can impact the torque on our knees, our stability and even cause blisters on the balls of our feet. This would definitely ruin your weekend. Classes are in conference rooms which means we’ll be dancing for three days on commercial grade carpet. It feels great for walking and sitting in lectures but can wreak havoc on your feet. Be sure to pack your dance shoes and any additional footwear you need to keep your feet healthy and happy. A little Epsom salt bath each night can work wonders too!
Writing Materials – You are likely to learn new things, get inspired, meet new people, hear a new song or even experience all of these at the same time! You know your BFF isn’t going to send you her notes as fast as you would want them so don’t forget notebook and pencils! Personally, I love any excuse to buy a new, beautiful, fresh notebook. This year, with the addition of poster sessions, you are likely to fill up a whole notebook in just a few days. I also highly recommend refillable mechanical pencils. You never have to deal with the frustration of your pen busting in your dance bag or having to practically engrave your notes because you ran out of ink at THE most important part of class.
Water and Snacks –The hotel is just outside of San Francisco and there aren’t any grocery stores within walking distance. Food and water purchased at the hotel is way overpriced. Why spend $30 for a few granola bars when you could have purchased some brass Nakarali bracelets instead?! Last year, some of us shared an Uber and headed to Trader Joes to stock up before the festivities began! Healthy, quick snacks you can throw in your dance bag are best. Remember, sugar causes inflammation, so don’t fill up on those super sweet, supposedly healthy, meal replacement bars. Those will only make you crave more sugar and cause you to be tired a few hours later. (I could write a whole article on this alone) Instead, stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, hummus, green juice and some salad fixings. A refillable water bottle is best as it’s less wasteful and isn’t likely to get picked up and drank by someone else. If your room has a fridge, even better! If not, consider bringing a cooler bag with you. Refrigerators are limited at the hotel and can be rented for $5 per day.
Business Cards and Marketing Materials - Bring more than you think you will need! This is a great opportunity to network so it’s always nice to have business cards in your class bag. It may be old-fashioned but I still think it’s more professional to hand someone a beautiful representation of your company with all your contact info than it is to say “oh, you can find me on Facebook!” There is a table where people can set out promotional items like postcards and flyers. Give people every opportunity to get your information AND get theirs! We have such a big community and everyone has something to offer, why not connect and share? Remember, Sister Studios can order promotional materials at fcbd.com. No graphic designer needed, all the work has been done for you!
Open Mind and a Smile – OK, not really something you should pack and it’s something you should always carry! You are attending a three-day workshop all about ATS®!! This is the most accepting, loving environment I ever experienced at a dance event! Instructors have developed workshops that they are passionate about. Poster sessions were developed by some amazing people to give you tools you need to be successful! Some of it you will love and some of it won’t speak to you. But I encourage you to take full advantage of this event! Have an open mind and experience everything you can! Dance with people you don’t know, talk to people you’ve never met, get out of your normal circle of friends and share a meal with someone you want to learn more about! This is a safe place to be vulnerable, be authentic, ask questions, be silly, be positive, and SMILE!
So there you have it. Ten things you need to be sure to bring to ATS® Homecoming! This list could really be top 100 but these are the main things that seem so obvious that they are usually forgotten.
Of course, if you happen to forget something, then you can check in with my next blog post which is all about shopping and vendors at Homecoming!